The impact of accelerated change in the business environments of most companies is undeniable. Disruptive technologies, lower barriers to competitor entry, shifting needs and expectations of customers, macroeconomic conditions; and the impact of numerous geopolitical events are some of the variables that now require most companies to be in a state of constant evolution. This accelerated rate of change impacts just about all industries, functional areas and job roles; however, it is quite possibly the world of sales in which we find some of the greatest disruption and need for evolution.
Caliper’s extensive research in sales performance over the last 60 years points to the need to greatly expand the traditional hunter/farmer conception of sales and to consider a wider range of sales-related functions that are more in line with how customers buy in today’s complex environment. This research has involved scores of companies and thousands of incumbent sales professionals across a wide range of industries. Below, are tabulated the success profiles of the various sales categories that emerged from the analysis. The first 3 are described at length in another article which can be accessed here. The last 2 are described below:
- The ‘Traditional’ Sales – New Business and Account Development
- Sales through Service – Account Service Specialist
- The Collaborator – Consultative Sales
- The Subject Matter Expert – Technical Sales
- The Knowledge Broker – Strategic Sales
The Subject Matter Expert – Technical Sales
Professionals who serve in sales roles grouped under the heading of “Technical Sales” generate opportunities by leveraging technical expertise and product- or industry-specific knowledge. An individual in this type of role may be the primary salesperson in a technical or scientific sale or act as a subject-matter expert working in conjunction with another sales professional. Technical Sales professionals leverage their expertise to build credibility and gather important information or specifications, which allows them to propose targeted solutions and ultimately close the sale. These professionals often hold the title of sales engineer, pharmaceutical sales representative, medical device representative, or product sales representative. This type of role requires strong performance in some core sales competency areas, such as influence and persuasion, relationship building, information seeking, and negotiating. However, for this role, greater emphasis should be placed on such competencies as analytical thinking, business acumen, and learning agility.
The Knowledge Broker – Strategic Sales
Top performers in this sales category establish themselves as industry experts and true business partners. They leverage deep knowledge of the client’s business, industry, product, and marketplace to bring new insight, challenge assumptions and conventional wisdom, and ask the difficult questions that the customer may not have thought about or has been avoiding. Strategic Sales professionals must establish the credibility to serve as a confident, strategic partner. Through this sales process, they challenge their clients to find a deeper understanding of their business, the issues they face, and their path moving forward. Therefore, successful Strategic Sales professionals manifest competencies that are reflective of organisation-wide, conceptual, big-picture thinking and strong cognitive ability, such as strategic thinking, business acumen, learning agility, and organisational savvy.
Find out how leading Indian companies are using psychometrics for profiling candidates that fit into various types of Sales Roles.
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A New Sales Paradigm: Blurring Organisational Boundaries, Navigating Complexity, and Measuring ROI
As the world of sales continues to evolve, one thing is becoming quite clear. That is, the boundaries that once dominated thinking in the world of sales roles is no longer a valid approach to understanding sales. Professional buyers now have the capacity to conduct deep research on products/services and the vendor company. They are easily able to obtain feedback from previous buyers who have engaged the vendor company and the sales professional, as well as the number and quality of competitors. In short, buyers now do the prep work that replaces the features and benefits sales person. Conversely, the sales professional is now expected to do the homework that was once the purview of the buyer. That is, they must understand the buying organisation’s true business needs, provide insight into the buyer’s own industry, and understand the implications of current and anticipated changes in the business environment. The complexity of the business environment that is reflected in this blurring of roles and organisational boundaries necessitates that both sellers and buyers collaborate more extensively than in the past if they have any hope of successfully navigating the nuances and intricacies to achieve their complementary goals. Today’s sales professional also needs to stand ready to convey true business value, not just through persuasive communication, but rather through compelling and tangible RoI evidence. That is, today’s sales professionals should expect to function as knowledge brokers, bringing insight and wisdom to the customer that differentiate themselves and their companies, not simply as vendors of choice, but as true strategic partners.